SPOKANE, Wash. - The Soul spent the better part of two-and-a-half quarters digging out of an early 20-point deficit.
They weren't able to do it a second time.
After the Soul rallied to tie the score early in the second half, the Spokane Shock used three game-changing plays to regain a three-TD advantage on their way to a 75-54 Arena Football League victory in front of 8,972 at the Spokane Arena.
The Soul (5-8), winners of three of their last four entering Friday's game, saw their playoff push derailed after they pulled even at 34 on Ryan Vena's 14-yard touchdown pass to Larry Brackins.
Spokane (5-7) was inside the Soul's 10-yard line, but the drive appeared to stall when quarterback Erik Meyer's fourth-down pass fell incomplete in the end zone. However, the Soul were flagged for two penalties - Spokane accepted a holding infraction on defensive back Chris Martin - and Antwan Marsh scored on a 3-yard run on the next play.
The Soul marched to Spokane's 5, but Vena's pass was picked off by Terrance Sanders near the goal line. Sanders returned the ball to the Soul 20 and, while being dragged down by a lineman, alertly flipped the ball to Beau Bell, who took it the rest of the way.
The Shock led, 48-34, and added to that margin when Vena misfired badly on the Soul's next play from scrimmage. Vena's pass went straight to defensive back Ruschard Dodd-Masters, who coasted in for a touchdown, boosting Spokane's lead to 55-34 with 14 minutes, 8 seconds remaining.
"Turnovers kill you," Soul coach Mike Hohensee said. "We're struggling at the quarterback position, trying to play a clean game. We haven't played a clean game yet this year. The kid competes his butt off. Unfortunately, it takes the wind out of you when you're playing so hard, making a comeback and making plays in every phase, and you give the ball back so easily."
Vena had five touchdown passes - he also ran for a pair of TDs - but he was intercepted three times, twice during Spokane's second-half surge.
"Those were mental mistakes - broken routes, misreads. We can't have that trying to get into the playoffs," said Soul receiver Donovan Morgan, who finished with eight catches for 117 yards. "They're going to destroy us."
The Soul trailed, 20-0, before their offense took the field. Meyer hit Markee White for a touchdown on the Shock's opening possession. Spokane, 0 for 9 on onside kicks this season, surprised the Soul with an onside kick and recovered at the Philadelphia 6. Meyer tossed another touchdown pass, and then the Shock pulled off another successful onside kick. Meyer fired a touchdown pass to White and Spokane led by 20.
On their first offensive snap, the Soul needed just seconds to find the end zone. Vena hit Morgan in stride for the first of three-first half TD connections.